COUNCIL MEMBERS REPORT DECEMBER 2009, LINDA LEE by 2PbJE3

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									COUNCIL MEMBERS REPORT DECEMBER 2009, LINDA LEE

Summary

As the budget was set at this meeting and there were a number of sensitive
matters to be discussed including those relating to strategies in relation to
legal aid and mortgage fraud, a great deal of the discussions of Council took
place in Part 2 (that is information restricted to members of the Council) and
therefore cannot be reported in public.

Discussions also in Part 2 were further detailed work regarding research into
the impact of alternative business structures which followed from a Council
member’s motion by Michael Garson.

The possibility of developing a fellowship model as proposed by Lord Hunt
received mixed reviews with some concerns that this was divisive and
devaluing the badge of solicitor, whereas others felt this would be a
recognition of long years’ service to the profession.

Council was informed that the Gazette would no longer be circulated to
trainees at a cost saving of £120,000 per annum but it was hoped that an
enhanced online service would be available.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is still refusing to honour its commitment to
ensure that staff at the Legal Complaints Service would be subject to the
Transfer of Undertaking (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE). This
would result in difficulty and uncertainty for the staff and a potentially
enormous redundancy bill for the profession.

 A memorandum of understanding to guide the relationship between the local
law societies and the Law Society is being developed. This will be discussed
at the next Presidents and Secretaries Conference on the 14 to 15 May.


Retirement

The December Council meeting saw the last appearance at Council of two
former Presidents of the Law Society, Andrew Holroyd (2007-2008) and Peter
Williamson, retiring Chair of the SRA Board who was President from 2003-
2004.

The President and Council thanked both members for their hard work and
devotion to the interests of the profession.




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Quorum of the Legal Complaints Service and Interim Joint Resolutions
Board

Council approved amendments to the General Regulations to allow a new
quorum for the Legal Complaints Service Board to apply from 1 January 2010
when the Board will be reduced in size. The quorum for the Legal Complaints
Service Board shall now be three including a member or two lay members.

Council approved the changes – for 66, against 3, abstain 3.


Chief Executive’s Report

The Chief Executive reported on the considerable wealth of activities carried
out by the Law Society on behalf of its members.

A full copy of the report is available on request.



‘Help Campaign’

From September 21 to November 31 2009 the Law Society was running a
national advertising and PR campaign promoting solicitors. The campaign had
a strong emphasis on particular areas of private client work. The aim of the
campaign was to encourage consumers to use solicitors by improving public
understanding of the unique selling points our profession has to offer.

The ‘qualified to answer’ campaign, takes a Beatles theme with the strap line
‘Help, I need somebody’, and was featured in the print media and on posters
in more than 200railway stations.

The advertising directs the public to the Society’s website
www.lawsociety.org.uk/commonlegalproblems where they can search for a
solicitor to help them through the ‘find a solicitor’ service as well as more in-
depth information about how solicitors can help.

Initially £150,800 was spent on the national press advertising with additional
advertising to the value of £126,800 secured at no cost. The Society
negotiated improved positions in national press and secured additional free
press ads at no extra cost. An additional £54,000 was spent on the regional
railway station poster campaign and on-train advertising with an additional
£30,000 package of poster advertising secured at no additional cost.

The campaign offered over 100 million opportunities to view for the
advertising alone, with an additional 10 million in 2010. PR has already added
293,000 additional opportunities to view in the first two weeks of the campaign
and over £40,000 worth of PR advertising value. It is estimated that PR
activity will secure the advertising equivalent of £450,000 by the end of the
campaign.


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The following supporting materials available (in English & Welsh) free of
charge

1. Posters
2. Postcards
3. Guides to common legal problems: Making a will, buying a home, renting
a home, getting a divorce, problems at work, setting up in business, personal
injury, financial matters for the elderly, setting up home with your partner,
using a solicitor, probate, claiming asylum (online community language
versions also available)
4. Template press articles – (local law societies and solicitors can customise
these)
5. Template press releases
6. Campaign logo to use on promotional materials

All of which can be ordered from

www.lawsociety.org.uk/promote

660,000 items of promotional materials have already been requested by local
law societies, solicitors, Law centre CABs and libraries since the campaign
launched. More than 140 firms have downloaded the campaign logo to use on
their promotional materials and websites. There have been 3500 views of the
webpage which supports the campaign. The LS press office has received
hundreds of calls from the profession taking up the offer of free PR support to
help piggyback the campaign. Over 200 firms have used the template news
releases to promote their own practices in local media. Many requests have
been received for media and marketing training, with four sessions already
delivered to groups of solicitors around the country.


Office for Legal Complaints
Work continues in relations to the establishment of Office for Legal
Complaints (OLC). The Society has sought sight of the Business Case
leading to the OLC’s conclusions that they should take offices in Birmingham,
despite the availability of apparently suitable and significantly less expensive
accommodation elsewhere.

Discussions continue on the arrangements for transfer of Legal Complaints
Service (LCS) staff to OLC, and on the arrangements for dealing with LCS
case work after the vesting day of OLC. The Law Society’s objectives are to
ensure that its staff is treated fairly in accordance with the Ministerial Transfer
of Undertakings (TUPE) commitment, without seeking to obstruct the effective
and efficient working of OLC from the outset. It is hoped that a proposition will
be agreed for consultation with staff within the next few weeks.

A Council member indicated that the Chief Executive’s Report was very
interesting reading and that it would be helpful if it could be distributed to the
wider profession. It was agreed this was an interesting proposition but hard


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copies would be very expensive to distribute, although more could be done to
make it more visible on the web.

A Council member noted that the Government had introduced an amendment
to regulate damages based (contingency fee) arrangements in employment
work. This was done without adequate consultation and the proposal
suggested that there be a cap of 25% on damages on any contingency fee
agreement. He is currently engaged in this type of work and indicated that the
median award for an employment claim was around £4,800. He normally
charges 33% of damages. If this were limited to 25% he would be reduced to
a charge of £1,200 for potentially a fully contested hearing which could last
one or two days. He felt that his charges were similar to the majority of those
in the profession and he is a very experienced partner in a firm and this was
not high paid work. His clients are by their nature unemployed and it was
difficult to justify his involvement in these cases at the current level of fees.
This would mean that he would have to restrict his work to higher value cases
and this would have important impact on access to justice. This would in
effect disenfranchise a significant number of clients.

A Council member commented on the work of the “Help” campaign and
thanked the media team for the work done to highlight the dangers of using
unregulated will writers.

She noted that the Chief Executive’s Report indicated that in 2010 there will
be the roll out of a new CPD portal to be known as the CPD Centre. This
service will be commercially driven and deliver sustainable value to members
in that it will offer online training, a CPD recording tool and a directory of
courses all under the Law Society brand.

She asked for clarification on this and how it would be rolled out and how it
will fit in with the work carried out by the Sections.

She also noted that the Chief Executive’s Report made reference to the
European private client work. This stated that the Law Society had
commissioned a market research report to survey the British expatriate
community in Brussels on the extent and type of need that exists for legal
advice on private client matters – notably matrimonial and succession
planning.

She noted that this work had not been filtered through to the Wills and Equity
Committee and she had not heard about this work prior to the report.

In response the Chief Executive indicated that the Society had commissioned
research as there were proposals to introduce cross border laws and they
were building a body of information on market needs. He indicated that if a
Council member would like to take part in formulating the research proposals
via the Wills and Equity Committee this could be done.

In response to the question regarding Law Society Sections, the Chief
Executive indicated that Sections were free standing and there may be


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competitive tension between the Society and the Sections. He hoped that this
would be avoided, but developing an income stream was very important for
the Society and for the profession and therefore this work had to progress.

In response to the concerns regarding the Quality Advocates Assurance
Scheme and the Legal Services Commission’s consultation document, this
was being dealt with by the Legal Affairs and Policy Board and Mark Stobbs
as Director to the Board. He indicated that although he had not had
opportunity to study the consultation, there were grave concerns about this
consultation. He questioned the role of the Legal Services Board in this and
the requirement to regulate approved regulators and he also thought it was
inappropriate for the Legal Services Commission to be involved in this area.

The Chief Executive’s Report made reference to the virtual courts and
indicated that following the Royal Assent for the Coroners and Justice Act
2009 the Law Society expected that Defendants would no longer have the
opportunity to refuse to consent to the process.

The Virtual Courts Project Board met in October and had now agreed
following lobbying by the Law Society that the suitability criteria be amended
so that a virtual court would not be appropriate where the custody officer
considers there is a substantial risk of the defendant becoming violent before,
during or after the virtual court hearing. The Law Society will continue to
monitor the pilots closely.

A Council member asked if this remained the position. The Chief Executive
indicated that the Chancellor had announced that there needed to be savings
from the Ministry of Justice and one of the proposals was to move ahead on
virtual courts and that removing the defendant’s right of choice was a proposal
and the discretion would now rest with the police rather than the defendant,
therefore there are a number of issues that need to be considered. The
Ministry of Justice is at the behest of the Treasury and they have planned a
rapid and radical roll out of virtual courts.

A Council member indicated that the Civil Justice Committee had similar
concerns on damages based agreement but unfortunately Lord Jackson
seemed to be of the view that these were suitable proposals. He also queried
whether or not the main point of the letter to the Chief Executive of the Legal
Services Board was that the SRA was not a legal entity and was not capable
of being an employer, therefore if the SRA failed to comply with expectations
placed on it, was it fair that we should deal with the ultimate penalty without
having proper authority to make any changes to or deal with their failures.

The Chief Executive said that he would discuss matters more in Part 2, but on
the wider point the Council member was absolutely right, the SRA is not a
legal entity and therefore any legal action would be against the Law Society.

The Chief Executive’s Report had referred to the JAC outreach event
organised in partnership with the Judicial Appointments Commission and the
Society’s Regional Managers to provide practical support and information for


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solicitors considering a judicial career. Both events were attended by
approximately 50 delegates each, representing a good cross section from Top
100 firms to sole practitioners. There were also judicial appointment
workshops in which 10 BME solicitors have participated in a very successful
competency based skills workshop. All had applied and been successful in
getting places at the workshop against stiff competition, with applications
received from 40 solicitors. Those participating have all shown an interest in
applying for judicial appointments and had the potential to be successful. It
was intended to run more workshops in an effort to encourage more solicitors
to apply for judicial appointments.

A Council member queried the breakdown of the diversity of the 40 applicants
and the 10 successful applicants. The Chief Executive replied they were
available but not to hand, but he would make sure the Council member
received them.

In respect of the workshop, she asked if the Law Society was planning to
track the 10 who had attended to see how successful they had been. The
Chief Executive confirmed that this was the intention. She also asked what
steps would be taken to address other unrepresented areas, for example
women, those with disabilities etc. The Chief Executive said this was more
difficult. We needed to boost not only the applicant pool of solicitors but also
to make them more successful. It was hoped that more courses would be run
in 2010, but the Law Society’s resources were limited and therefore we were
planning only to run a handful of such workshops across the 12 month period.

A Council member indicated her appreciation for the Legal Aid team’s work.

The Chief Executive had indicated that the Legal Services Commission was
continuing with its programme of Community Legal Advice Centres (CLACs)
and Community Legal Advice Networks (CLANs) listed in the Deed of
Settlement and continues to talk with other local authorities regarding joint
commissioning post April 2010.

Five CLACs are now up and running and bidding has closed for the West
Sussex tender but no details are yet available, and the tender has opened for
Barking and Dagenham where it is thought that private practice will be
bidding.

Most local authorities are awaiting the outcome of the feasibility study by the
Welsh Assembly Government looking at alternative models. However CLACs
and CLANs are still planned for Wakefield, Gloucestershire, Stockport,
Sunderland, Ealing, Hackney, Cardiff, Bridgend and North Wales.

However last month Manchester City Council suddenly announced the launch
of Community Legal Services and Manchester already has good legal advice
provision. A meeting had been convened of legal aid practitioners, LSC staff
and City Council to discuss the issues. The Legal Services Research Centre
evaluation is still awaited.



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It was reported that there were already 10 CLACs and CLANs in existence
and 5 were put in place where there were already existing law centres and in
all of these centres there had been other advice centres e.g. CAB. A council
member asked that Council ensure that there is real protection for the ‘not for
profit’ sector. The Chief Executive said this was a timely reminder and the
Council Member could rest assured that the Society was conscious of this and
were currently in discussions with the Legal Services Commission. He stated
that we need the Legal Services Commission to articulate clearly their
proposals and desirability of CLACs and CLANs where there were already
existing not for profit organisations and firms in these areas.

A Council member noted that there was a Top 100 firms Relationship
Manager and queried this, although this query had previously been raised at
other Council meetings. The Chief Executive indicated that 43% of the
profession were employed in Top 100 firms and that in addition there were
Regional Managers who looked after the profession as a whole on a
geographic basis. He rejected suggestions that there is an intense focus on
the Top 100 as there was only one Regional Manager for the Top 100 and
numerous Regional Managers around the country. In addition, legal aid firms
for example had a team of 5 working on this area of work, more than any
other area other than International.

Report of the Chair of the Membership Board

Support for members facing regulatory action

      A proposal for research to help the Society ascertain what support it
       could provide members faced with a regulatory problem was signed off.
       The main aims of the research will be to identify gaps in existing
       support and insurance provision in relation to solicitors’ relationships
       with regulators.

      To explore solicitors’ views on the appropriateness of the Law Society
       providing such a service.

      Help determine the level at which cover should be offered.

A procurement exercise for the research will be undertaken shortly with field
work beginning in 2010.

Gazette trainee circulation

The Chair reported that in October it was decided that the Gazette should not
be circulated in hard copy to trainees which would save £120,000 annually.
The Board has asked that online JLD specific editorial content and facilities be
produced specifically targeted at trainees subject to commercial
considerations. This will be discussed between the Commercial team and the
JLD.




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Fellowship of the Law Society

Recommendation 58 of the Hunt Review that the Society should establish a
badge for professional excellence in a form of a Fellowship of the Law Society
was constitutionally feasible was rejected by members of the Board as they
believed that a fellowship scheme would create an unwarranted and
unnecessary hierarchy within the profession and would be divisive.

The Board would prefer to explore the concept of extended membership to
respond to new factors such as the impact of ABS.

Transfer of accreditation panels

The Society’s new Accreditation team had been developing plans for the 11
voluntary schemes which were transferred from the SRA in July. A business
plan for phases 2 and 3 of the accreditation project had been approved.


Relationship with local law societies

A Memorandum of Understanding should be ready of January 2010 which will
form the basis of the relationship between the Law Society and local law
societies and will be able to be modified to meet local requirements. This will
be on the agenda of the Presidents and Secretaries conference on 14-15 May
2010.

A Council member queried the fellowship scheme as being seen as divisive.
The Chair responded that he was agnostic personally. The Lord Hunt
recommendation had meant that this needed to be considered, but the Board
had emphatically rejected the proposals. It was felt there were enough ways
of recognising excellence and that there were concerns that this would
devalue the badge of solicitor.

It was noted that the Membership Board were considering reviewing the
relationships between the Law Society and Groups and Sections and Council
members wanted more information, however the paper is currently being
prepared and will be available to those who wish to have sight of the review in
the new year.

Concerns were raised about the lists of the availability of names and
addresses of members and it was asked if the Memorandum of
Understanding would deal with this. To date, despite promises that these
would be available to local law societies, the Council member’s local law
society had contradictory answers from the Law Society. The Chief Executive
said that Council may recall that he had announced that the Membership
Board had authorised one free list rental per year and arrangements on
discounted pricing for subsequent usage in the year. This could be included
in the Memorandum of Understanding but lists should be available on local
law societies now.



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Report of the Audit Committee

There was an oral report from the retiring Chair of the Audit Committee,
Stephen Brooker. He said that the rule of law depends on how well regulated
lawyers and there is always a danger when you look back that this may seem
either self serving or patronizing. However, when he was appointed six years
ago, risk assessment, management etc. were not fit for purpose and this had
now been rectified. The management teams were now fit for purpose and
well equipped for the future and far better placed than they had been six years
ago. For the future there were all sorts of things that should be on the
Council’s agenda and he would urge Council to bring back to the chamber the
question of independent members of Council (lay members). He felt that they
would be helpful and this would meet a societal norm in legislatorial society.
As a Council we should reflect on this issue again, or someone else might.
The Chair of the Audit Committee was thankful his six years of careful
attention and hard work.


Report of the Chair of the Regulatory Affairs Board

The Board had responded to a number of SRA consultations and had
received a full report from the Education and Training Committee.

The Education and Training Committee had prepared proposals about entry
to the profession. Option discussed included:

      The introduction of an aptitude test would be one way to reduce
       numbers entering onto the LPC. The Board generally supported this.

      Expansion of the Society’s existing information campaign. The Board
       strongly supported this.

      No entry to LPC without a training contract. The Board did not support
       this option.

      Point of qualification prior to an extended period of practical
       experience. The Board did not support this option;

      Support for alternative routes to qualification – in some circumstances
       those who wished to qualify as a solicitor used the ILEX route and
       avoided the need to undertake a formal training contract.

      Incentives or support for firms offering training contracts – the
       Education and Training Committee had agreed to conduct further
       research into cost-effective ways in which TLS or the SRA could make
       offering training contracts more attractive for firms or other
       organisations.




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      Modular training, under which trainees could move between firms/in-
       house legal departments to get a good spread of experience, could be
       developed.

      Entry requirements to the LPC based on academic result, i.e. all those
       seeking admission to the LPC must have a First or a 2:1 Class
       Honours Degree. This approach was discounted because it was
       deemed to be both discriminatory and difficult from a regulatory
       perspective. The Board agreed that this proposal should not be
       pursued.

      Limiting LPC numbers - limiting the number of places on LPCs would
       close the gap between the number of LPC graduates and the number
       of available training contracts. This would be a long-term option, as
       many LPC providers had had their numbers validated for the next five
       years. Any attempt to limit numbers for the remaining providers would
       be inequitable. The SRA had made it clear that it did not wish to control
       the market and TLS had publicly supported this stance. There might
       also be competition difficulties in introducing controls based on any
       criteria other than standards. The Education and Training Committee
       had agreed with this approach.

A Council member asked that in the light of the Legal Services Board call to
evidence regarding referral fees, what was RAB planning to do in response?
The Chair responded that there would be a paper for the January meeting.

A Council member asked how seriously RAB was taking the introduction of
ABSs. A key point was the lack of action on ABSs and this Council member
had previously voiced concerns that he did not think plans will be made to
develop ABSs speedily enough. The Chair responded that work was currently
being done by the Rules and Ethics Committee on this.

Report of the Legal Affairs and Policy Board

Part of this report was discussed in part 2 as it concerned policy in formation
in relation to key issues for the profession. However the public discussion
centered on the following:-

Consumer Contract Regulations

The Board noted that further advice had been sought from counsel as to the
drafting of a practice note on this subject to ensure that the implications for
conditional fee agreements were included. Further advice has been
requested and it is hoped that the practice note will be issued shortly.




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Contracts with the Bar

Mark Stobbs had written to the Bar Standards Board with the Law Society’s
comments on the proposed new rules and the contract. A working group of
the LAPB had been established to consider detailed issues about the contract
and, if appropriate, prepare guidance. A copy of the letter to the Bar is
attached at Annex 1.

Ministry of Justice Consultation on Oaths Fees

The Board noted that the MoJ proposed to double the fees which
Commissioners for Oaths may charge to £10 per oath for affidavit and £4 per
exhibit. The Law Society has been lobbying for an increase in oath fees as
there has been no increase in the fees since 1993.

ILEX and Accreditation Schemes

The Board noted that the Criminal Law Committee was content for ILEX
members to be accredited in the Criminal Law Accreditation Scheme. It was
noted that historically ILEX members were not admitted to the Criminal Law
Accreditation Scheme as members did not have rights of audience; however
ILEX members were admitted to other Law Society accreditation schemes.
The Board agreed the approach of the Criminal Law Committee and it was
agreed the response to the Membership Board would be in favour of admitting
ILEX members who met the relevant criteria.

A number of matters regarding legal aid were discussed in Part 2. It was
noted that the tendering timetable for legal aid contracts had been released
with Immigration beginning in the week commencing 30 November 2009.

Solicitors Manifesto

A manifesto outlining Law Society policy on a number of issues of relevance
to the profession would be prepared prior to the next election. Specialist
committees had already been approached to input their views and additional
representational issues such as access to justice, jurisdiction of choice issues
and the importance of the profession to the economy would be included. The
importance of High Street firms as SMEs would also be highlighted. A first
draft of the Manifesto would be brought to the Board in January and put
before Council in February.

Legal Expense Insurance

The Board indicated that there were a number of concerns and issues to be
undertaken in this area and work was to start with a major campaign planned
for 2010.




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Mortgage Fraud

Work relating to this was discussed in Part 2 but the Board were looking at a
number of options whereby the profession could reduce their liability and risk
in this area.

Constituency Matters

A Council member reported that a constituent of his had successfully judicially
reviewed the Legal Complaints Service and been awarded £38,000. It was
indicated that this was correct and that there had been £35,000 in costs. This
was under delegated conduct exclusively with Legal Complaints Service.

Solicitors Regulation Authority Board Report

This was the last report by Peter Williamson as Chair of the SRA Board as he
will retire on 31 December 2009; the President thanked Peter for his many
years’ work on behalf of the profession both in his role at the SRA and
previously as a Council member and former President of the Law Society.

The new Board, which will be formed on 1 January 2010, had undergone an
induction course and this had gone very well.




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